If we set the WayBack machine to the Spring of 1991 we’ll find an overweight, smoking, over-working, Associate Dean at the Oberlin Conservatory who looks a little bit like “the Penguin.” Bigger, duller, less happy, and weighed down not just by body but also by his spirit.
At some point you’ll find Dean Bingham picking up an old Peugeot 10-speed with white-wall tires and shift levers on the down tube. And with that purchase his life, my life, changed forever.
When I was a kid I loved to ride my bicycle. LOVED it. I started on a ratty 20-incher with baseball cards clothespinned through the spokes, to a bike with a giant spring on the front to a shiny black Schwinn “English Racing Bike” with an Archer 3-speed gear selector.
Needless to say we didn’t have helmets or padded bicycle shorts. If you fell off your bike, you scraped your knees and elbows. If you’re not paying attention and you ride into the back of a parked car you fall off your seat, land on the cross bar, and slide balls-first into the handlebar stem. And you learn to pay more attention.
When I was dragged screaming into a more active lifestyle the only form of exercise I would consider was riding a bike, hence the Peugeot. I discovered, much to my surprise, that even after years of inactivity I still really liked riding a bike. It didn’t take long before I upgraded to a Schwinn “Le Tour” and started to do longer rides. Eventually, I bought a Trek 2300 and did a few triathlons. Through it all, I just liked riding.
I rode a bike nearly every day when I lived on the north side of Chicago. It was the fastest way to get around. I bought a mountain bike when I thought I might do some adventure racing. But the truth was that nothing felt as good as just getting out for a ride.
With my retirement, now over a year ago, I’ve found myself returning to activities that made me happy years ago. I had my trombone put back into playing form and I’ve been “practicing” nearly every day, and more importantly, I’m returning to bicycling.
You can blame Coach Jenny Hadfield for this and her collaborator Muneer Radi from Spokes in Naperville, IL. She bought me, and he fit me on, a beautiful new Specialized Roubaix bicycle. After a short, cold, ride around the neighborhood I am hooked. HOOKED.
We’re still months away from being able to ride outside so this will be an especially long winter with motorcycles – and now a bicycle – just waiting to be ridden. The only problem will be that on the first glorious spring day will I clip into the pedals or turn the key and hit the starter button?
Knowing me, I’ll probably do both.
Waddle on, friends.